Next to the importance of what we put into our bodies is what we put onto our bodies. And today, we are using a lot of things that do not belong on or in our bodies, which lead to all kinds of health problems. The personal care industry has grown in size over the last few decades to an enormous scale. Even though men and even kids are targeted, the number one focus of this industry has been women. Everything is done to make women feel like they need numerous personal care products and continuously new and different products. We are taught to reject our age, our natural looks, our natural hair and nails, our natural scent, and ultimately to feel inadequate unless we have on or are using any number of products.
As women, we are conditioned to see beauty a certain way that usually greatly deviates from what natural beauty is all about. Clever marketing makes women constantly strive to keep up with the latest beauty trends and products, all in a never-ending quest to feel pretty, sexy, beautiful, young, alluring, wanted, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, to try and achieve these illusionary goals, we look to external solutions that mask who and how we really are, rather than working with internal solutions via healthy lifestyle habits and our inherent beauty.
Our world has defined a very shallow view of beauty for us, and we will never be satisfied on the outside until we are confident on the inside. True beauty starts with how we think and behave, and most importantly, how we treat ourselves and others. However, this is not the time for a personal development discussion. Instead, we need to address the toxicity that comes from using so many of these different products, which is leading to various health problems. These include everything from allergic reactions and chronic diseases to declining reproductive health and fertility, which have all been associated with the modern onslaught of chemical exposure. Cancer rates are high and climbing. Babies are born with numerous allergies and health conditions. Children are facing the risk of autism at unprecedented rates. Something is clearly not right. While we cannot directly point our finger and blame one specific substance, it is becoming evident that the more toxicity is in our systems from various sources, the more likely our children and we are to exhibit multiple diseases and health conditions.
Therefore, in this article, I will cover both the problems and the solutions that can help you make healthier and safer choices.
The Sabotage of Our Health
Let me start by asking you a fundamental question: How much do you value your health?
Many people will think that the answer to this is easy, and proudly proclaim “a lot,” however, our actions are rarely consistent in this regard with our intentions. Some of us may try to brush off topics like this, thinking that we can’t live in a bubble and that clearly, if personal care products were that bad they wouldn’t be sold. Nevertheless, whether we choose to dismiss, ignore, or downplay the risks associated with the toxicity of personal care products, the seriousness of the risks remain. There is no amount of denying that is going to allow us to escape from the problems that the toxicity of modern personal care has created.
We have accepted that we want to “look good” according to society’s standards at almost any cost. We have come to believe that our skin is too dull, our face too blemished, our hair too lifeless, our bare nails too unsightly, without questioning the underlying factors that govern these parts of our bodies. And thus, we have come to believe that all the products that are available for all these different parts of our body are just a normal part of life and can be fixed externally. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The products we use most regularly often intensify the problems we think we have and make us dependant on those very products. In an effort to fix ourselves externally, we neglect to consider what is happening as a consequence of all these products internally.
Think about this next: When you wake up in the morning, what are you putting on your body before you leave the house? What do you put on your face, hair, armpits, and other parts of your body? Are you conscious of the products and the ingredients you are using? And how about what you put on throughout the day and in the evening? Are you aware of how many different products you use and how much of each one that you subject yourself to daily?
According to the research of the Environmental Working Group - EWG:
On average, women use 12 personal care products a day, exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients. Men use 6, exposing themselves to 85 unique chemicals.
Imagine how this amplifies and compounds over a lifetime!
Whenever health-conscious consumers try to ask manufacturers about the safety of a particular product or ingredient, the response is always the same. They claim that they are not doing anything wrong and that their products are within standard regulatory guidelines. But what do these guidelines measure and mean for us on a practical level? When we look past the theory, we find that many chemicals have never been appropriately tested, and of those that have, testing is almost always done by the company itself and not an unbiased regulatory agency. Also, almost all chemicals have never been tested for safety in combination with others, as per the most typical use. This means that our bodies are the Petrie dish testing grounds. Then, when something negative happens with our health due to any personal care products or ingredients, the companies that make these products are almost always acquitted of any wrongdoing as they claim that we cannot prove that the problem was due to their product. In part, they are correct, given how many toxins there are today in our food, air, water, cleaning products, homes, workspaces, and personal care products. This is the problem that we face. No one is going to take accountability for your actions. This is why we must take full responsibility for ourselves today and our choices as wise and health-conscious consumers.
The Solution is in Your Choices
The news about all this is grim, and it is not going to get any better unless and until we as consumers drive the necessary change. The good news is that today we have choices. We should not hear this information and feel doomed or hopeless like we have no choice. We have a lot of options, but it all starts with having the proper education about the problems and how to overcome or minimize them as much as possible.
In the past decade alone, the number of natural and non-toxic personal care product companies has been steadily increasing. Companies that genuinely care about our health and the health of the environment are very prevalent today and offering every personal care product that we may desire in a less toxic or non-toxic form. We do not have to be slaves to or at the mercy of multi-million and billion-dollar corporations who are interested in nothing more than profit at any cost. Today, we have many options to exercise our choices and support products and companies that prioritize our health, the environment, animal welfare, transparency, and integrity.
There are numerous reputable natural companies today to meet your every need, and you will find many mentioned throughout the articles I share on this website. However, the number one rule of thumb is to REDUCE! Reduce the number of products you use, period, whether they be natural or conventional. You don’t need to spend and waste so much money on all these different products that you are made to think you need. In truth, we need very little to maintain optimal cleanliness and external wellbeing. Most products are completely unnecessary and excessive. So go ahead and clean out your drawers and cupboards starting today. If you don’t want to waste what you already have, then remove or replace products as you finish them. This step-by-step approach can also allow you the time to learn about safe alternatives if any such are even needed for you, and not make the transition feel overwhelming. Being mindful of your consumption not only makes sense to your health but to your wallet and our environment too.
5 Tips to Choose Safe Personal Care Products
Of course, the more companies learn that consumers want “natural” or “organic” products, the more they are eager to provide such products. Unfortunately, these are not always honest and trustworthy options, as green-washing is a reality we also have to contend with today. All too often, all kinds of great-sounding claims are made in ads and commercials, or on the front of the product package that try to distract us away from what the product is really all about and give us a false sense of safety. However, all is not lost, and there are several things you can do, as follows.
- Look for organic certification on any product that claims to be organic. Don’t fall for words like “natural,” “herbal,” or “plant-based,” as these can be used indiscriminately and have no standardized meaning. Keep in mind that a product’s trade name may include the word “organic” without it actually being a certified organic product, so reputable organic certification logos are the key! It also helps to become familiar with organic personal care cheaters.
- Look for products that contain the leaping bunny certification, which indicates cruelty-free products.
- Look for products that are certified by the Natural Products Association in North America.
- Read all the ingredients of the personal care products you are going to buy or use. Often products will have a few plant-based ingredients in minuscule amounts listed near the end, yet claim to be herbal or beneficial thanks to them. All the while, the majority of their ingredients are conventional chemicals. Refer to my guide, 10 Harmful Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid and How to Choose Natural Products where I help you specifically in this regard.
- Visit the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to quickly and easily learn about the safety or toxicity of any ingredient, product, or brand that you may be interested in using. These kinds of not-for-profit resources are aimed at educating consumers about the potential health risks associated with their personal care products to help you make the best and safest choices.
Your Health is Priceless
A common argument that comes up about high-quality natural personal care options is that they are just too costly and unaffordable. I am happy to share with you that while such a concern was very valid some years ago, today, with the increase in the natural product market, prices have become very competitive and comparable to conventional products and brands. Some non-toxic products will cost you about the same as you would spend otherwise, and there are many sales and promotions on them regularly as well. Ultimately, we have to look at this the way we would at our food. It is no secret that fast food is often cheaper than fruits, vegetables, and some other whole plant foods, but we cannot compare them directly where our health is concerned. One path leads to less money spent today and much more spent in the future to fix health problems. The other path spends a little more money today to avoid and prevent having to deal with future health problems. Besides, recall that the first thing you should do is reduce the number of products you use. You do not have to replace everything, and you should aim to reduce the frequency and amount of any product you have. You also do not have to choose the high-end products in the natural personal care industry, which cater to exclusivity and don’t often offer much more benefit than much cheaper options. In the end, it is easy not to spend more and perhaps even save money by choosing natural and safe personal care products.
In the end, remember why you are doing this in the first place. This is about your health, and if you are making it a priority, then everything should be done to support it in the best way possible. There are numerous ways that we waste money each day, and the more mindful we are of our finances, the more we find that there is almost always room for that which matters the most. As always, it comes down to a matter of choice.
The Story of Cosmetics
To end off this article, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite personalities - Annie Leonard, whose work is dedicated to inspiring positive change and action for the betterment of our health, environment, and our world. In 2008, Annie made a short video called The Story of Stuff. If you have not yet seen it, I highly recommend it. Since then, she has released many more such valuable and informational videos on numerous other topics that we should be aware of today in how they impact our health and the health of our environment. In one of them, she teamed up with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to create a video called The Story of Cosmetics, which brings to light several critical topics that we should all be aware of about the personal care industry and our health. These include toxic baby products, pinkwashing, beauty salon health risks, corrupt safety measures and lack of proper legislation. The video is a must-see for everyone, but especially for women because they use the most chemical products and are normally responsible for purchasing most products for the whole family.
To your best health and wellbeing!